Archives for category: Process

It’s not a personal invitation nor is it a solo exhibition but it is my first time to be shown in a museum. Two works have been accepted into the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum juried show called “Socially Distant Art: Creativity in Lockdown”. I deliver the work to the museum in Connecticut at the beginning of April. By that time, Marie and I should be fully
vaccinated and I consider this a fitting occasion to the end of the pandemic and my lockdown.

I have made no secret that my goal is to be in a museum. Admittedly an arbitrary goal but non-the-less, a goal that appealed to my ego. I have long thought that I had the hand skills to be in a museum but I did not know what my voice was. I have since found my voice and I have the conviction in what I have to say. Clearly this is still but a step on a long path but looking back on what I have accomplished, I have come a long way.

The thought does occur to me, once I have attained my goal of being in a museum, then what? Am I done? Does that change anything? We shall see.

In my 20 November posting, I wasn’t sure if this piece was done. Throwing caution to the wind, I had it framed. Frequently having the work framed finalizes it in a way that makes a work complete. At other times, the frame merely highlights the fact that the Foundling still isn’t really finished. This time it turned out that this Foundling wasn’t ready. So this piece stayed in my studio, waiting. The question always is, waiting for what?

Continuing to work on a piece that is already framed makes the process difficult. The fact that it is mostly a completed work limits the access I have to the underlying structure and the frame can get in the way. As discussed, I build these Foundlings in a way to make sure that they don’t come apart in the future… or in transit, so the engineering needs to be secure.

It turns out that this work was waiting for the familiar theme that I return to time and time again, the square and circle. The circular frame completes the Foundling by reinforcing the circular focal point. The focal point, a ruffled lamp shade, made of white milk glass, has that radiant quality that I am so fond of but this glass element is always difficult to work with (don’t ask). There is also a bit of tension between the overall square shape of the work, all of the squares in the background and the rectangular frame. I waiver between this element fighting the overall square theme or adding to the square theme by being unexpected. Never-the-less I am finally pleased that Mandala II is now complete. It is 20″ x 20″ x 5″.

28 January 2021. Unlike silver, the gold and brass tones I work with have an inherit antique quality to them. That is not to say that silver always looks “new” just that the brighter quality of most silver can have a shocking quality next to the dark wood. Sill, I have had much success working in silver.

Working with material that is worn or tarnished, I have come to appreciate that when I am finished with a work, nature my not be. Having pieces that tarnish more, like brass,
only add to the timeless quality that I am trying to capture.

Like brass, copper’s warm tone works very well with the dark wood but copper presents a particular problem. If I seal the copper it will stay a bright copper color. If I leave the copper without a coating, sometimes it will tarnish a beautiful turquoise color and other times, darken in a more brownish direction. This makes it particularly difficult to know exactly how a work will evolve. Perhaps this is a good thing as it reminds me that even if I am the “creator” so much of this process is out of my control. As in watercolor painting, there are “accidents” were the colors “bloom” in a way that is not completely controllable… no matter how expert you are with the medium.

Most of my creative process is an exercise in following where the ingredients take me. It is a reminder of just letting go. Understanding that I am not in complete control is another lesson that these Foundlings teach me about life. A lesson that I am grateful for. This is Mandala I and is 20″ x 20″ x 3″.

It is difficult to see yourself accurately, to access your own work and by extension, to see how your skills have improved both aesthetically and technically. I am not handy by nature and I am not naturally comfortable around power tools and yet, here I am, with more tools and skills than I could have ever imagined.

I have spent the last month or so not creating, or at least not creating Foundlings but in making a more efficient workspace. Clearly, having the right tool for the job is critical but having a space that is conducive to working is just as important. I have found that if you don’t “see” the tool, you don’t use it so I have set out to make the tools visible and the space more efficient with clear surfaces to work on.

I had a very productive past year producing more than 23 pieces. Due in part to the pandemic, I was in the workshop more. I am excited to see what this new year will bring — more creativity, more pieces and perhaps, more importantly, a return to normal times.

An early work that was completed when I was less familiar with the direction I was heading in. It was so easy to fall in love with the tones and textures of the individual parts but I lost sight of the total piece. So it languished… for years.

Perhaps the most difficult part about working on a “completed” work is less about where to take this Foundling but more about how I was to get there. With the piece already assembled, certain areas are just not assessible. Yet another challenge added to helping this work find its way.

The carved wood, so beautiful and bold was difficult to find a home for as it easily overwhelmed almost any work it was attached to, until this piece. Using it upside down the carving echoes the center piece and reinforces the brass laurel.

When am I done? Trying to figure that out can be so difficult. To find that balance between overworking a piece or stopping too early is almost a skill unto itself. I can frequently ask others for a fresh viewpoint when I am nearing what I believe is a finished Foundling. Marie is always helpful as she brings a completely fresh opinion. Other times only waiting can tell because with time and distance, comes an understanding. When I am creating, there is a kind of “creative blindness” that sets in. A “persistence of vision” that can easily deceive. I can get stuck in a direction that I can see only one path forward.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said that art is never finished. Only abandoned.

This is Mandala II and I waiver between this is done in a minimalist way, and that it still needs to be “pushed”. Presently this work is being framed as sometimes a frame finishes a piece. Other times a frame highlights that something is missing. Perhaps the fact that this piece is one of the few works that isn’t stained dark is in itself distracting. The background, being made of beautiful teak, may be what misleads me, so I will wait a bit to see if I am done.

As the pandemic drags on, many antique stores are closed, few garage sales have been found, and art shows canceled. Although I still have plenty of material to create with — without new “ingredients” to cast all of the existing pieces I have in a new light, I had to explore different ways of creating.

Over the years, I made a few pieces that I have not been satisfied with. They would just languish on a shelf for years with me not knowing what to do with them. I decided to either disassemble them for parts or see if I can continue working on them… years after they were first created.

In this piece “Study in Brown III”, I had the thought that the heavy clamp and bull nose grip would be lifted by a partial feather underneath. That was the concept. I still like this idea but as a Foundling, it just wasn’t successful. So instead of a concept, I just followed aesthetics.
Much better. Necessity must be the mother of invention.

My foundlings are largely a pursuit of aesthetics. There is a lot of art that have political themes these days but I have avoided wading into these waters. It is not that I don’t have particular views, far from it. I am very interested in politics but for me, for now, this is simply an area I have no need to explore.

That said, I had found a small brass woman’s bust about four inches tall. Very “Alphonse Mucha” in style. Any time I used it, however, it seemed too predictable and not well integrated into a work. I tried lots of combinations with completely incongruous elements, just to see if I could get these elements to “speak” to each other, when I landed on a Victorian gutter screen that looks like a cage. I put her in the cage… all of a sudden I had a political piece. The piece became more “narrative” than merely aesthetic.

The cross band, depending on how you view the work, obscures either her eyes or mouth. I first thought of blind justice or women being trapped,.. or gagged. I realize that being a male depicting a woman in a cage can be provocative. Am I endorsing the subjugation of women (absolutely not); am I commenting on the injustice women face (sort of)? Even if this was not my original intension, a statement about how poorly women can be treated is worth repeating (and worth eradicating).

Art is not made in a vacuum. There is a context that reflects the culture in which it is created and the artist’s place in it. I don’t actively avoid making political statements but when a piece takes me in a particular direction, in this case into politics, I have learned to respect it as I respect all people, especially women.

I am very sensitive to patterns. I often joke that I see patterns almost every-where… and I take diagonals very seriously as well. Perhaps this is due to my traing as a graphic designer or perhaps it’s just a personality quirk. Whatever the origin, seeing patterns and working with them is intregal to my Foundlings.

When I use patterns in repeating forms, they tend to evoke geometric references to mandalas in Hindu or Buddhist traditions. At other times I use patterns to contrast each other and set up a kind of tension. Either way, they have a way of focusing the mind.

I create my Foundlings not just to please, not just to be inspiring with their beauty but to focus on our surroundings and our place in it. To appreciate what may be discarded or worn beyond its “usefulness” and yet still have an important part to play in our world. My work is sometimes called “recycled” art. This is true but I think it misses the point. I am not merely taking discarded material and making it “art”. I am exploring how we turn a blind eye to what we consider unimportant when, in fact, what is unimportant is largely a value judgement based more on what we think we value than what is truely valuable.

LastStand_II_front_72dpiRGBI have to remind myself not to take things for granted. This is a rather important lesson for creating—as well as for living a full life. I have to fight doubts and expectations. Some of them are; I have to work big as I have been doing only small works lately (or visa versa); I can’t use a certain part as I just used a similar part in a recent piece; or the direction of a work is just too predictable. I have been doing several round works of late.

Am I creating too many of these? These circular pieces reflect less of my desire to do round pieces and more about what’s available in my studio as my stock of ingredients dwindles. The pandemic has taken its toll on my inventory. The big circular frame is the last one that I have. The wooden board with the grid, the last of six panels. The brass Gothic arch, the last of two that I had.

I don’t get sad about running out of material and I don’t know when or where I will be able to stock up on more material but I do have the understanding that with the new ingredients will come new possibilities. And that is an expectation worth having.